Police, Fire & Court Property Regeneration

Council takes precaution to replace cladding on Evenlode and Windrush towers

By Richard Chidwick at

Oxford City Council will replace the rain-screen cladding on Evenlode and Windrush Towers with improved non-combustible material in line with the requirements of the new central government guidance.

As reported in the media, the Government has directed that all aluminium composite (ACM) cladding on residential tower blocks be tested for fire safety. Samples of the ACM cladding which cover half of the two towers were sent to the Building Research Establishment for testing last week.

The results have come back and identify that the cladding is a risk. As a precautionary measure, the City Council will therefore be replacing this cladding on the two blocks with improved non-combustible material. Plans for the replacement of the cladding are already underway and timeframes are being reviewed with contractors.

Councillor Bob Price, Leader of Oxford City Council, said: “Tenants’ safety is our top concern and we will not compromise on safety standards. We have been working with Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service who have been involved in the design of the fire safety arrangements in the blocks. They completed a review of these arrangements and site inspections today, and confirmed that the fire safety measures in place are satisfactory.

“As a result I confirm that it is not necessary to evacuate the towers. We’re arranging for the work to begin removing the cladding to start as soon as possible, and we’ll let residents know more details about all of this as soon as we have finalised them.”

Simon Furlong, Director of Community Safety and Chief Fire Officer of Oxfordshire County Council Fire & Rescue Service said:

“I would like to reassure residents of Oxford’s five high-rise towers that Oxford City Council has taken all the necessary fire safety measures to ensure they are safe in their home. Oxford City Council followed our advice to introduce a number of fire safety improvements as part of the recent refurbishment work. This includes the installation of a new sprinkler system in flats and communal areas and a fire and smoke detection system connected directly to the fire service.

“As the owner of both buildings, Oxford City Council carries out regular fire risk assessments, which are audited by Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service. These audits are up-to-date. In the event of a fire at any high-rise tower in Oxford, we have the resources in place to ensure a rapid response within our target response times.”

Leaseholders have been advised that they will not be charged anything extra for this additional work.

Details of cladding on all Oxford City Council tower blocks were sent to the Government. They confirmed they are only testing ACM cladding – which applies to Evenlode and Windrush Towers, and which was identified as a risk. The other tower blocks will have rain-screen cladding made from non-combustible sheet aluminium, rather than aluminium composite.

The City Council has exceeded legal requirements in terms of the whole safety system in all five tower blocks. Fire safety precautions that have already been undertaken as part of the £20 million tower blocks repairs project are:

Sprinklers in all flats, directly connected to the Fire Service
Heat and smoke detectors in all flats
Smoke detectors in all communal areas, directly connected to the Fire Service
Non-combustible insulation
Fire breaks within the cladding system
Upgraded communal area fire doors and flat entrance fire doors
Automatic venting system to stairwell to remove smoke
Upgraded fire seals to waste chutes

Residents with questions or concerns about fire safety in the tower blocks can also telephone 01865 249811 or email towerblocks@oxford.gov.uk, or attend one of a series of residents meetings